Based on John A. Jackson’s book Big Beat Heat: Alan Freed and the Early Years of Rock & Roll, this is the warts and all story of Alan Freed, who may have invented rock and roll — or at least popularized it — but lived fast and certainly anything but scandal free.
Director Andy Wolk was behind the 2002 film The Christmas Shoes, a movie that I am forced to watch every year. I am still upset that this year, I will have to watch it yet again.
Judd Nelson plays Freed, who rose from small stations in New Castle, PA and Youngstown, OH (WKST and WKBN, which I grew up on) to making history coining the term “Rock and Roll” on Cleveland’s WJW. So if you’re ever wondering why the heart of rock and roll is in Cleveland, Huey Lewis wasn’t just writing a line that rhymed with “believe them.” His wife Jackie McCoy is played by Mädchen Amick from Twin Peaks and Sleepwalkers.
For all the actors playing musical stars in this, Bobby Rydell and Fabian Forte are both in this. Honestly, the fact that I don’t have a Fabian Letterboxd list is a major oversight. And oh yeah — a later love interest is Paula Abdul.
The payola scandal and alcoholism that ruined Freed’s life is touched on, but you get the idea that he loves rock and roll so much that none of that — much less his wife and kids — got in the way of putting on a show for the kids.
Look at that — three versions of Alan Freed — a 70’s movie, his version of the story and the TV movie — all in one day.
You can watch it on Tubi.